Federal Labor’s sharpest tech sector advocate Ed Husic has been handed the shadow Industry and Innovation portfolio as part of a sweeping reshuffle of the opposition frontbench unveiled by leader Anthony Albanese.
Mr Husic, who has been serving as shadow Agriculture and Resources minister since November last year, is a long-time friend of the technology sector. His new appointment will be welcomed by the tech sector who have wanted a louder voice for technology in the broader national debates about industry development and innovation.
He replaces current shadow minister for employment and industry Brendan O’Connor on the Industry side of the portfolio, and from Clare O’Neil who had been in the outer ministry as shadow minister for Innovation, Technology and the Future of Work.
Mr Albanese said Mr Husic’s new appointment was a recognition of how engaged the Western Sydney MP has been with the technology industry, and to the innovation ecosystem in this country.
“I want a future made in Australia, and as we look to the future, we must look to new ways to give our traditional and emerging industries in Australia an edge in the global economy,” Mr Albanese said.
“There’s no-one better to lead that than Ed Husic. Ed’s been engaged, not just since he’s been in parliament but prior too, in new technologies and innovation. He will be an outstanding contributor as the newest member of our shadow cabinet,” he said.
“If you look at Ed’s track record and you look at the tech sector, I think that his appointment will be welcomed and that [Industry Minister] Karen Andrews today will be a nervous minister.”
Mr O’Connor has been moved to the Defence portfolio, while Ms O’Neil becomes spokeswoman for senior Australians and aged care services.
The Labor reshuffle had been expected in the wake of some tweaks on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s frontbench in December but comes at a time when Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s position is under intense pressure.
Mr Husic has taken a circuitous route to back to into the portfolio where he made a huge mark. And he had been forced to cool his heels on the backbench for much of the current parliament as factional weirdness forced him to ‘take one for the team’ to allow former NSW premier Kristina Kenneally into shadow cabinet in mid-2019.
The resignation late last year of Joel Fitzgibbon from the shadow Agriculture and Resources portfolio put Mr Husic into the shadow Cabinet – albeit in an unusual portfolio for a Western Sydney-based MP – and not the reshuffle puts him squarely into the role in which he can be most effective.
Elected as the member for Chifley in 2010, Ed Husic quickly earned a reputation as one of federal Labor’s best communicators and remains one of its star media spokespeople.
By 2013 he had been promoted to become a Parliamentary Secretary in the final months the second Rudd government, but really made his mark on the tech sector as an assistant minister for digital innovation and startups from mid-2015 to mid-2016. This was during then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Ideas Boom and the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
He had been shadow minister for the digital economy from October 2016 until just after the last election and had done most of the heavy lifting in relation to the information technology end of the Industry portfolio and could take credit for delivering key policies under Labor.
In particular, Ed Husic massively raised the profile of support for utilitarian technologies like Artificial Intelligence, but has also been a loud and effective voice on the employee share scheme legislation, government technology procurement, and as a backbencher on the controversial encryption laws.